Thirty nurses employed by Howard Brown Health and represented by the Illinois Nurses Association (INA) will go on a series of strikes starting Monday, Oct. 3, according to a press release Windy City Times received.
Howard Brown has been serving the healthcare needs of the LGBTQ+ Chicagoland community for nearly 50 years.
"Our nurses have been in bargaining since June over their second contract with Howard Brown Health, and after 18 tentative agreements have stalled and taken a turn for the worst," said Rob Garness, RN.
"Nurses work at Howard Brown Health because they care about the queer population that they serve, but those patients cannot properly be cared for given the conditions at Howard Brown Health. That's the bottom line of this strike," added Tony Valentin, RN.
According to the press release, the nurses have not been able to get any meaningful movement on wages and policies to retain nurses, and progress has been stalled due to high turnover among the staff. Since contract negotiations began, three nurses have quit.
In January, INA filed grievances against Howard Brown for unfairly disciplining two nursesone of whom helps run a program that provides medical forensic exams (also known as "rape kits") to LGBTQ+ survivors of sexual assault. The following month, Howard Brown employees announced their intent to unionize with INA.
On June 6, workers filed a petition for recognition, with two-thirds of their co-workers showing support for unionization. In August, more than 470 employees at Chicago-based Howard Brown, Broadway Youth Center and Brown Elephant retail locations announced they had won their union election with 97% of the votes cast.
The strike schedule is as follows:
Monday, Oct. 3, 8 a.m.-7 p.m., at 4025 N. Sheridan Rd.
Tuesday, Oct. 4, 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m., at 3245 N. Halsted St.
Wed., Oct. 5, 8 a.m.-7 p.m., at 1525 E. 55th St.
Thursday, Oct. 6, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., 1025 W. Sunnyside Ave.
Friday, Oct. 7, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., 641 W. 63rd St.
Saturday, Oct. 8, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., 6500 N. Clark St.
Howard Brown has released its own statements regarding the impending strikes. A recent release stated, "After two months of negotiations and significant progress made, Howard Brown Health continues to bargain in good faith with the nurses' union. Howard Brown hopes that patient care will continue uninterrupted while progress is being made at the bargaining table.
"Earlier this month, the nurses gave notice of their intent to strike on or after Oct. 3. Because of the great progress made already, we do not believe we are at an impasse that may lead to a strike. Committed to the process, we believe we can reach a final agreement by [Oct. 3].
"To date, management and Illinois Nurses Association have come to [an] agreement on many significant contract provisions, including:
1. Staffing levels
2. Remote work
3. Progressive discipline
4. Arbitration process that adds a mediation step
5. Attendance policy
6. Health and safety provisions
7. Saturday shifts
8. Union rights
9. Management rights
10. Monkeypox MOU with PPE and safety protocols
11. Additional annual labor/management meetings
12. Extending introductory period to 90 days from six weeks
13. Expanded transparency when posting positions and rights of bargaining unit members when applying for positions
14. Expanded shift and scheduling flexibility for nurses
15. Prompt turn-around responding to vacation requests
16. Commitment to mutual dignity and respect
17. Revised dress code respecting individuality and a commitment to no discrimination based upon attire
18. Participation in committees
"Howard Brown has also engaged our assigned federal mediator who has met with both parties and worked to try to bring us closer together. … Reaching a mutually agreeable contract prior to a strike is a top priority to ensure patient care is not interrupted."
Also, a GoFundMe page has been created to help support the staff of Howard Brown. Funds raised will be directed to the non-profit Chicago Jobs with Justice. More information is at tinyurl.com/4329raet.